It had been a quarter of a century since former Straits Times (ST) journalist Gillian Pow Chong last met many of her former newsroom colleagues. So when she learnt that they would be gathering once more at an exhibition drawn from ST's archives, the Perth-based lecturer did not hesitate to fly in specially for the occasion.
"It's lovely to come back to share this momentous event," said the 58-year-old, who worked at the broadsheet from 1978 to 1989, breaking such stories as Singapore's first test-tube baby.
"If you've been a journalist, you're always a journalist."
Yesterday night, around 160 ST alumni attended the Singapore STories: Then. Now. Tomorrow exhibition, which marks both the newspaper's 170th anniversary and Singapore's Golden Jubilee.
They mingled with more than 120 of the daily's current employees at the ArtScience Museum, on the first of two consecutive nights reserved specially for past and present staff.
• The exhibition, co-curated by ST and the ArtScience Museum, will run until Oct 4.
• CapitaLand is its presenting sponsor, while Standard Chartered Bank is a gold sponsor. Best Denki sponsored the exhibition's equipment.
• About 200 images in the exhibition are being published as a book titled Front Page: STories Of Singapore Since 1845. The book, sponsored by the Bank of Singapore, is on sale at $25 (before GST) at the museum and at bookstores.
The free exhibition, which was launched on Wednesday, chronicles the struggles and triumphs of Singapore through reports and pictures from ST's archives.
ST editor Warren Fernandez said: "Today's generation of journalists are very fortunate to have the newsroom we have.
"That's the doing of our predecessors. This is really a good opportunity to remember and pay tribute to them and all that they've done."
Said former editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division Cheong Yip Seng, 72: "I would like to look over the Singapore story from the very beginning. The years just after independence were one big struggle for all of us, a struggle to build a country."
Mr Cheong, who hit the streets as a rookie reporter in 1963, has vivid memories of covering historical events such as the 1965 MacDonald House bombing.
Freelance writer Philip Lee, 73, who joined the paper in 1974 and spent more than 20 years there, said: "The biggest joy tonight is to see old faces. This is a precious moment." He quipped that he was also happy to see his byline in the exhibition, which includes his piece on the 1986 Hotel New World collapse that killed 33 people.
Younger reporters relished the opportunity to meet veterans of the trade. Crime reporter Lim Yi Han, 25, said: "We are so used to filing breaking stories with our smartphones now. But Mr Lai Yew Kong, who was the head of the home affairs desk in the 1970s and 1980s, said the most sophisticated instrument in those days was a pager."